Almost all of the writings in Balinese were digitized and preserved here in 2011 by the Internet Archive from their major library in Denpasar, Bali. A official in the cultural ministry said that this collection is "90% of all writings in Balinese." Most of the Balinese literature is written on palm leaves, or Lontar. Some were not digitized because of the culturally sensitive materials they contain. This makes the Balinese the first to have their complete literature online and available for free.
Bali has a rich tradition of literature that dates back several hundreds years. Balinese writings encompass the ancient literary texts composed in the old Javanese language of Kawi and Sanskrit; many based on the famous Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The island’s literary works were mostly recorded on dried and treated palm leaves. The writings were incised in both sides of the leaf with a sharp knife and the script is then blackened with soot. The leaves are held and linked together by a string that passes through the central holes and knotted at the outer ends.
The lontar manuscripts range from ordinary texts to Bali’s most sacred writings. They include texts on religion, holy formulae, rituals, family genealogies, law codes, treaties on medicine (usadha), arts and architecture, calendars, prose, poems and even magic. Many lontar manuscripts contain information on important issues such as medicines and village regulations that are used as daily guidance.
The Internet Archive scanned and uploaded lontars in Bali,
as well as videos depicting Balinese ceremonies and traditions.
Working with Professor Ron Jenkins and Balinese scholars Nyoman Catra and Dewa Made Dharmawan, we hope that this project will make lontars accessible, readable and understandable to a wider audience and to scholars and students in Indonesia and all over the world.
The Jakarta Times reported on the project.